Hello from Buenos Aires,
It’s my second day and I’m forcing myself to write to try to get this habit flowing. Today was really long but really helpful in terms of getting situated in the city and meeting people. We had orientation at this building called “Circulo Italiano” in microcentro near Recoleta. I can’t find anything Italian about it but it’s a nice spot that can fit all of us. My host mom drove me so I got a good view of the route, even though I’ll be taking the subway from now on. I took it home with a few other people who live nearby.
Orientation was orientation…the staff seems great. There are 23 of them for 120 of us and they’ve had this program since 1988 so they’re poised to handle lots of situations. there was a huge emphasis on safety and not speaking english or showing a camera in the streets, which makes it hard to document. It’s also getting dark really early here (around 6) so after orientation wasn’t the ideal time to explore my neighborhood. I did make a wrong turn and find a coffee shop I really want to visit. Hopefully this weekend. Then we broke for lunch and I went to a cafe with three other people. I met so many people from Penn today; it’s so weird to be in the biggest group but not really know the group. We did sample some vino tinto with lunch because hey, we’re in Argentina and it was included with the lunch special. My host mom doesn’t drink much so I’ll be doing that outside of the house I guess.
After lunch we had more orientation and then a workshop about transportation which included the presentation of a 200 page map booklet of the city called Guia T. Apparently all the locals carry one because the city is that confusing! They had us find bus (collectivos) or subway (subte) routes to different places. We also got our first “assignment” which is to take ten pictures of our first impressions of the city and present them. Not too hard, expect we’re apparently going to be robbed for using cameras, but it was totally the moment where everyone groaned because we can barely get to school let alone do work and also it’s July. sigh, can’t really complain though. The subway is simple enough but there are literally hundreds of bus routes and the stops aren’t marked on the map. Their advice to find the stops is just to walk around and ask people. You figure out which buses go where by find spots in the map grid of your starting point and then looking for the matching route number in the destination box. If there’s no match, you look for a further bus and then find the list of stops and guess where it is. OY. Sounds interesting… They do have cards that you can preload and it’s really cheap to get around (like under a dollar). My host mom gave me her past student’s sube card so I just had to reload it which is easier than buying a new one! She also passed down a tiny Nokia phone that I can reload as I need. It’s really small and inconspicuous which is nice.
Hearing about people’s host family situations is really interesting. Some people are definitely in nicer neighborhoods or more centrally located but this city is so spread out and we have to be in so many places that being centrally located is kind of impossible. I’m glad to be near a subway (linea b!) and glad to have a few travel buddies. On my way home today I stopped at a supermarket and got an orange because I have a little sore throat and wanted vitamin c. It
was a little purchase but felt good to do something by myself in the neighborhood. Tomorrow is a spanish placement test that’s over two hours long. Not looking forward to that but on thursday we’re going to a Fuerza Bruta show and having dinner in small groups. I also found out that our program Director, Mario and Daniel, the assistant director are both vegetarians or almost vegetarian. Great news!